Several people have asked about “Joy” in my book Dancing In The Dungeon. Well, with her permission, I’d like to introduce her. Joy’s real first name is Anne and is a dear friend. For those who haven’t read DITD, here is part of what I wrote about her…
(Joy) was married to an abusive alcoholic while raising five stair-step children, walking them all to church every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday night. Once the children became adults, tragedies began. Joy told me about these events herself, some of which I witnessed. One child was murdered. Two more drank themselves to death. Another had problems Joy wouldn’t define while her oldest son won’t have anything to do with her or the family. Two weeks after one child passed, a grandchild committed suicide. Then her unbelieving husband got terminal cancer and refused to be saved.[i] Like many others I wondered how much Joy could endure?
Through all those events, Joy never missed a worship service. Every time I saw her she testified to how good God was. There was never a time anyone saw her that she didn’t smile with a twinkle in her eye. Even when she was weeping in deep pain, she smiled and welcomed everyone. Joy never attended college or seminary and never served on a committee or taught Sunday School. When decisions had to be made, she wasn’t consulted. Yet Joy was the person most admired in the congregation for strength of faith, prayer, and a daily walk with God. Satan threw an inordinate volley of grenades into her life, but failed to shake her trust in and love of God. She had a good theology of encouragement.
As E.M. Bounds has written, “The same sun that softens wax, hardens clay.” One lady’s loss resulted in anger and stumbling… another’s resulted in greater love for God and a strong faith. From that point I sought God’s help to handle and process suffering so my heart would be more like my friend Joy. I also worked to help my brothers and sisters in Christ to be prepared for suffering when it came their way. I wanted to help God’s people form a Biblical theology of encouragement in suffering.
[i] I met with him personally. He knew intellectually the plan of salvation but refused to be saved. I asked him if he knew what would happen if he died without Jesus and he said… with tears streaming down his face… “I’ll burn in hell forever. But you have to WANT to be saved and I don’t…”